Whenever we get pitched a smart appliance here at The Spoon, the first question we always ask is “Does making this device connected improve upon what we already use?” In the case of the TasteTro spice dispenser, which launched its Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign, the answer to that question looks like a “yes” — with one big, pod-based caveat.
TasteTro is a Bluetooth connected countertop spice dispensing appliance. Using the touchscreen and the TasteTro pod-based spice system, and it will pour out specific quantities (tablespoons, teaspoons, etc.) of 20 different pre-loaded herbs and spices, or you can have it create one of more than 50 pre-programmed spice blends like “Zesty Italian” or “Spicy Creole.”
For someone like myself who typically only uses salt and pepper, this actually sounds like a useful gadget to get me to try new flavors. The folks behind the TasteTro have been working on a prototype of the device for the past four years and are looking to raise $50,000 to help bring it to market.
You can pre-order a TasteTro for $299 USD, which includes the dispenser, 20 spice pods, six signature blends and four replenishment pods. The estimated delivery date is February of 2019.
I saw the TasteTro in person at the International Housewares Show in Chicago this past March, where it was selected as a Global Innovation Awards finalist for Product Design Excellence in the Smart Home Category. So unlike many crowdfunding projects out there, TasteTro is not just a dream, it is very real (TasteTro even has a couple of patents).
What I didn’t realize when I saw it, though, was that TasteTro relies on Keurig-like spice pod system. The TasteTro pods have unique RFID tags, and will alert you when you’re running low, but they are sealed, so you can’t refill them with your own spices. You have to purchase replenishment pods through TasteTro, which cost between $7 and $12 a pop, depending on the contents. A Q&A on the Indiegogo page explains this decision by saying:
“In the numerous in-home research interviews we conducted, we consistently found people using old spices. To have people expect mouthwatering spice blends from loading their old spices into the appliance would lead to disappointment and not the experience we want to deliver.”
If my kitchen is any indication, then yes, old spices (which only have a shelf life of six to eight months) are still in rotation. But if the TasteTro came pre-loaded with spices, and I could taste the difference, I’d be motivated to freshen up my spice rack. I just don’t want to get locked in an ecosystem for herbs de Provence.
While this razor/razor blade business model is nothing new, it gives me pause. Three hundred bucks is a chunk of change, and I’m relying on the company to stay around long enough so that I don’t wind up with device — but no spice.